In the south of Algeria – where almost all oil and gas upstream activities are carried out – Non-renewable groundwater preservation remains the most important challenge given the water scarcity Algeria is beginning to face.
The aim of this paper is to point out how manageable it is - for an oil and gas company - to reach its main objective as an industrial company without jeopardizing these valuable resources.
Contamination and overexploitation are the two major threats to be taken into account when dealing with Northern Sahara Aquifers System (NSAS) protection. Thus, Groundwater preservation includes both protection against contamination and water use optimization.
Besides, well construction quality and integrity are decisive conditions to efficiently prevent any contamination risk during both drilling and producing phases. Hence, regarding well construction, FMEA risk analysis method is fit for purpose to consider all potential failure modes and their effects that might endanger these aquifers.
On the other hand, standardization efforts have to take into account the contrasting aspect of the environment within the whole country. Sahara, in deed, represents a singular ecosystem with its own characteristics and vulnerabilities. Such diversity is seen as a real challenge when elaborating and fulfilling standards.
Algeria's economy is still substantially relying on oil and gas sales that consist of 98% of the total exports earnings and contribute to 35% to the GDP. Thus, the main task Sonatrach has been entrusted with is to generate wealth to kick-start the development process.
Although Sonatrach is well established countrywide, upstream activities (exploration, drilling and production) are mainly performed in the south – Hassi Messaoud being the main oilfield – where strategic groundwater reserves spread out. These reserves are well-known as the "Northern Sahara Aquifers System" (NSAS).
To correctly figure out the vital importance of the NSAS, it sounds of great helpfulness to remind that Algeria belongs to a dry region of the world that is facing a severe water shortage. Thus, the challenge for Sonatrach is to optimize oil and gas production operations, keeping in mind that the NSAS valuable reserves might be protected and preserved.